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A Whole Nother Story

Review

A Whole Nother Story

With a lively spirit full of good humor, exhilarating adventure and much thoughtful advice, Dr. Cuthbert Soup narrates this quirky tale of one gifted inventor who is on the run with his family. The Cheesemans have been forced into hiding, fleeing rival spies and thugs who are all eager to get their hands on the time machine Ethan has been building. Accompanied by Pinky the psychic dog and Steve the notoriously sassy sock puppet, the family packs into their station wagon, making modifications to the device as they go.

The story begins as Ethan is nearing the end of his labor on the time machine when the Cheesemans are visited by top-secret agents who suddenly show up on their doorstep. These spies first appeal to the Cheesemans to simply hand over the device, playing the card that “it is all for the greater good” but with clearly unscrupulous motives. Ethan’s wife, Olivia, courageously refuses and shuts the door in their faces, only to fall prey shortly after to an unexplained illness. Olivia’s failing health prompts her to see a physician, a man who seems shady and suspicious. Sadly enough, she succumbs to her ailment quickly, leaving behind three children (Barton, Saffron and Crandall), all of whom will miss her dearly.

The tragic loss of his wife makes it all too clear that the invention has put them in peril, but it also changes Ethan’s purpose as traveling back in time is now the only possible way of reuniting with her. After Pinky warns the family of more thugs on the way, they pack up and leave for good, keeping the machine safe in the back of the car. Their travels take them to many new places and homes, all of which they must leave in short time. In spite of the fact that the Cheeseman children are “smart, pleasant, witty, attractive, polite, and relatively odor free,” friendship is one thing they happen to know little of, as constant traveling makes it impossible to get to know people. But they are still a happy, charming bunch who goes about life with a fresh outlook and a spirit of adventure. New friends they do make along the way, managing somehow to play as children do and to be good Samaritans whenever they can.  

Two strangely appealing creatures of A WHOLE NOTHER STORY positively steal the show: Pinky and Steve, both eccentric, bona fide members of the Cheeseman clan. Pinky is a true hero, being lovable, sweet, hairless and exceptionally dependable. On top of that, Pinky is psychic --- quite a unique power in a family pet. Her ability isn’t an inborn one, but obtained through a strange kind of toilet accident. After Ethan discards Olivia’s stash of pills in the toilet bowl, he walks into another room. Meanwhile, Pinky slips in for a drink, but the tainted water causes a frightful fit in her. The dog seems to have gone mad, running in circles and banging her head against walls, but when she awakens, she possesses a newfound power to sense evil intentions and predict approaching danger. This turns out to be quite a useful skill in the situation that the Cheesemans have landed themselves in.

Steve, too, is a vital member of the family and seems to be the world’s most sarcastic sock puppet. Conversations with Steve are often interesting and unpredictable, even more so because Crandall never takes him off. Steve is Crandall’s homemade gift from his mother --- one of the few surviving mementos of her. Steve’s personality, however, is quite his own and drastically different from the boy’s. His snide remarks sometimes leave people surprised, but everyone considers him a separate entity. Steve is one of a kind and almost as important as the other Cheesemans.

Though Pinky is a supremely effective watchdog, the Cheesemans do become tired of running and must eventually face the spies who hunt them. They are aided by their scientific knowledge, their dedication to the power of invention, and the strength of their own family. Of course, this means that Ethan’s legendary time machine will eventually be put to the test. It’s a given that the device will work --- after all, Ethan is one of the world’s most brilliant minds.

For young readers who enjoy wry comedy and adventure, A WHOLE NOTHER STORY is a rare find. Its tone is light and amusing, and the jokes honestly never seem to end. The main story is entertaining enough on its own, but between chapters, Dr. Soup offers curious and varied advice. He himself calls this his “unsolicited advice,” and it covers a wide range of topics; these include dealing with ghosts and the dangers of technology, and even a fun recipe for squash. The type of jesting here is reminiscent of humorous authors like Lemony Snicket and Shel Silverstein. It’s bound to leave you with some chuckles and more than a few smiles, and I would say that it’s the perfect book for young boys, knowing that my own will surely enjoy it. There is also a satisfying, open ending, leaving the possibility for a sequel wide open. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more books from Dr. Cuthbert Soup in the future, hoping this won’t be the last of the Cheesemans.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on September 28, 2010

A Whole Nother Story
by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

  • Publication Date: September 28, 2010
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1599905183
  • ISBN-13: 9781599905181